Song of the Sea
Commander players often will develop their deck around a key theme or a tribe in Magic’s history. This can be Elves or Slivers or even Orcs! Today I wanted to go through a list of potential Commanders for if you’re looking at building a Merfolk Commander deck and the reasons to run each one (or if they’re better suited to another type of deck). Let’s go through every Legendary Merfolk and see whether they work in your Command Zone, or if they’re better off in the 99.
While potentially fun, the pay off with this card is relatively low. Having an ability to sink your mana into is nice (see later in this list Thrasios) but the ability is such a lower power level, has such abysmal stats at a 1/3 for three mana and doesn’t offer much in terms of synergy, I’d say this card is just a pass in the Merfolk Tribal deck and I don’t see this card having much play elsewhere.
Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders
The fact that this card has Merfolk creature type is rather strange to me. The creature type has rarely interacted with artifacts (outside of the recent addition Emry, Lurker of the Loch) and all-around functions strangely. With that said, if you’re interested in a spicy take on the creature type, making an essentially mono-blue Merfolk list with equipment so that your fish can fly out of the ocean could make for an interesting build. It seems like an entertaining choice for a Commander who could provide some fun and interesting games. All your lords are made far better when they have an Embercleave on them right?
While commonly used in archetypes built around stealing creatures, this could potentially make for an interesting mono-blue creatures list. Cards like Merrow Reejerey and other effects that could constantly untap this card make the effect far more powerful while filling your board with threats your opponents must answer. While not the immediate approach to building Empress Galina, it is a unique one that would stand out.
Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Unlike Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders, the upside for playing Emry, Lurker of the Loch in a Merfolk tribal deck is much lower. There’s minimal ways to enable Emry while still keeping the rest of the tribal theme going. If you did, Emry doesn’t really function in that type of deck. Emry decks very much have to function around a high density of artifacts and accumulating value/advantage off of them.
Jori En, Ruin Diver
While more built for spellslinger decks, the ability to draw off of your second card each turn isn’t bad at all. With the number of Merfolk you’ll be casting, it shouldn’t be hard to trigger this on each of your turns. On the one hand; green can do this better with Glimpse of Nature effects, but on the other hand; EMBERCLEAVE.
Kopola, Warden of Waves
Definitely one that promotes go wide strategies and the creature type itself, but the format is widely defined by board wipes like Wrath of God, Damnation and Cyclonic Rift. This commander doesn’t really do a whole lot to help keep you in the game once you’ve dumped your entire hand on the table. As well, this doesn’t protect against triggered abilities. Your opponents Noxious Gearhulk, Spine of Ish Sah or Ravenous Chupacabra are still going to ruin your day so I can’t recommend this card heavily as a commander o in the 99 in any Sultai centric metas.
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca reads value, while supporting the archetype itself incredibly well. All three abilities are incredibly relevant and rewards you for playing more Merfolk (especially low-cost ones). The ability to flood the board to pump your team or draw more action will be incredibly useful in most games. I do wish it cost one less mana but it is a stellar pick in both the command zone and the 99. This is my personal pick for playing the tribe in this format.
Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
There have been some incredibly interesting lists floating around for this commander but they don’t revolve around Merfolk. I can see an argument for using this card as part of the 99 in a Sygg, River Guide deck if you’re so inclined to generate more value off of your non-creature spells but that’s about it for this card in Merfolk decks. Consider building this card as a sweet UW control or spellslinger deck for some explosive games!
Prime Speaker Zegana
One of the most powerful Commanders on this list, but also one that has a high barrier to entry. Generally, you want to be playing a high number of creatures that generate mana to drop a single high powered creature that will help you refill your hand when Prime Speaker Zegana finally hits the field. Unfortunately, most Merfolk strategies are about going wide, not about making one creature particularly large and as a result, Zegana doesn’t end up doing a whole lot in tribal decks.
Sygg, River Cutthroat
Blue and Black aren’t your usual combination for Merfolk decks. Sygg, River Cutthroat is definitely a unique Commander that offers card advantage. But, your creatures would only really be Blue based, with Black being a support colour for removal and card advantage. Not one I would personally recommend due to the fact you gain more from having green as a support colour and your creatures are more limited in selection. Definitely a unique choice but not necessarily a strong one.
Sygg, River Guide
While a common choice for Merfolk Commander decks due to how long it’s been in the format for, the power level of the card itself just isn’t that high. It helps chip in for damage by protecting your creatures from the colours of the defending player’s creatures and helps evade removal. But the number of creatures available in this card pool just isn’t that high. The mono-blue Merfolk are good in all of these lists, but when adding a secondary colour, it should be for a solid added benefit. I don’t think either version of Sygg help support the Merfolk tribal strategy well enough to be used and are only used due to their history in the format.
Talrand, Sky Summoner
This is a Merfolk Wizard, but it’s really a Wizard first. The card rewards you for having as few as possible creatures in your deck to enable its effect. This is similar to having something like Young Pyromancer in your Command Zone or your deck. Fun and built for spellslinging, which isn’t exactly what you want for your Merfolk deck.
Tatyova, Benthic Druid
Tatyova, Benthic Druid is a strong Commander but made for another type of deck. You want to be running cards like Rampaging Baloth or Avenger of Zendikar to take advantage of this Commander instead of Master of the Pearl Trident. This card could potentially be part of the deck for Merfolk Tribal but her potential is meant for elsewhere.
Thada Adel, Acquisitor
Thada Adel, Acquisitor is an inherently powerful creature that suits the Command Zone well. The unblockable nature of Islandwalk plus the card advantage generated from stealing your opponent's artifacts will help keep you using your mana every turn while deploying your lords like Lord of Atlantis and Master of the Pearl Trident and other creatures that will grow your board even wider (Master of Waves) before finishing off your opponents.
Thrasios, Triton Hero
Who doesn’t love a good repeatable Coiling Oracle effect in the Command Zone?Thrasios, Triton Hero gives you the ability to filter through your deck with your remaining mana every turn as well as ramp you. Giving your deck access to Green and Blue is also very helpful for just having access to more enablers. Better in the Command Zone than it is in the deck because of how much removal this card will eat each game. Thrasios is an incredibly strong card that helps you recover after board wipes.
Tishana, Voice of Thunder
Tishana, Voice of Thunder is an undeniably powerful Commander. Getting the mana to cast Tishana is definitely where the struggle comes from. Make sure you run plenty of ramp as well as enchantments that will make your creatures tap for mana (see Cryptolith Rite). This will help power her out early for some very powerful turns. She goes great with other Merfolk as well as honourary Merfolk Craterhoof Behemoth!
Tuvasa the Sunlit
Tuvasa is looking for you to build around enchantments, not small creatures that have some sort of synergy together. Tuvasa the Sunlit is the definition of a build around Commander with the enchantress theme in mind. Gets much bigger based on your enchantments, not other Merfolk. Filling your deck with the tribe just seems like an unfortunate waste.
Vorel of the Hull Clade
Most of the Merfolk tribe relies on just boosting base stats rather than +1/+1 counters, unfortunately. Being a little too much of a mana sink for not enough of an advantage keeps Vorel of the Hull Clade from being playable in the deck or your Command Zone. The card is unfortunately a trap for newer players.
Zegana, Utopian Speaker
You’re probably just better off playing Prime Speaker Zegana or Tishana, Voice of Thunder over Zegan, Utopian Speaker. While the static ability that gives your creatures with +1/+1 counters trample is nice, it doesn’t offer a way to grant your creatures trample (outside of only on itself with the Adapt activated ability). This could potentially be a part of the deck but doesn’t hold its own in the Command Zone.
As you can see, a large number of the Merfolk cards don’t really help with the creature-based strategy. A large number of the cards support completely different strategies or just aren’t particularly good cards. Each creature type runs into this issue and only a few legendary creatures will really stand out as playable. I think the main takeaways for this article is the power of these Commanders: Kuman, Tyrant of Orazca, Prime Speaker Zegana, Thada Adel, Acquisitor, Thrasios Triton Hero and Tishana, Voice of Thunder. For the other cards, they all have decks that they can fit into just, not for the creature-based strategies that we’re looking for. A lot of cards to think about, and even more brewing to do. What tribe should we look at next?